Should You See a Shaman?

SHOULD YOU SEE A SHAMAN, By Natalie Ticehurst – Article Printed in Jan/Feb 2020 issue, reproduced here with permission.

I’ve got one hand on my stomach, the other covering my heart, and I’m calling on my spirit guides to put the energy of various emotional states into my body.

There’s a woman to the right of me who keeps breaking into uncontrollable laughter (the PR later tells me she’s seen worse reactions. A lot worse. I’ll spare you the details), and although mildly distracting, the hysteria doesn’t disguise the surge of emotion that overwhelms my body.

I’m at Shamanic Signatures, a workshop run by Shaman Durek, spirit healer to Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a crash course in identifying our personal signatures (the optimum environments and experiences we operate best in) and how to realign with them if we’re out of whack.

It’s perhaps the most unusual experience I’ve shared with a group of strangers – there was many a tear-stained face, although Durek assures me this is a normal ‘purging’ procedure as toxins and negative energy leave the body – but alternative healing is becoming increasingly mainstream. Kim Kardashian West, Victoria Beckham and Rosario Dawson have all touted the benefits of crystals, reiki and the like.

But what exactly is shamanism? At its core, the word describes someone trained in a tribe as a medicine man or woman, who receives messages from spirit guides and ancestors to heal mind, body and spirit.

‘A shaman is a bridge between our world and the spirit world,’ explains Durek after the workshop. ‘Shamans travel through other dimensions, through trances, and talk to your guides and angels to bring back valuable information. It’s very different from traditional Western medicine or therapy. A shaman will help you get to the root of the problem, assists you in recognizing and taking responsibility for having a part in this development and helps you to face it from the foundation,’ he adds. Shamans, effectively, hold up a mirror for us so we can see a situation better.

A few weeks pass and I find myself thinking back to those three hours spent with Durek. With a big decision weighing heavy on my mind, I wonder if shamanism could help me find clarity. Incidentally, thanks to the sweet serendipity of social media, I stumble upon the Instagram page of Brixton-based healer Rebekah Shaman (rebekahshaman.com) and slide into her DMs. We meet two days later.

Using a different tack from Durek’s, Rebekah – who spent 14 years as an apprentice of a traditional Peruvian Ayahuasca shaman in the Amazon, and who now treats people from her Harley Street studio in London – uses the power of plants to connect people to spirit guides. ‘I take people on a shamanic journey to meet the Cacao Spirit, using ceremonial cacao, so that they can find their own inner answers, clarity and guidance on a situation,’ she says. When I ask why cacao, she explains, ‘It naturally produces serotonin, dopamine and anandamide – bliss molecules, which make us feel happy. It also increases blood flow to the brain and focuses on and opens our hearts, so we feel more loving and peaceful. It’s a great alternative to coffee.’

And while I admittedly reckon it’s all a bit woo-woo for the first five minutes – thinking fondly of the flat white I’d had on the way there – I’m quickly converted.

Rebekah offers me a cup of freshly brewed cacao – it tastes like bittersweet hot chocolate – and hands me a pack of tarot cards to shuffle. I split the deck and she talks me through each card I turn over. While there are no surprises – I think my gut knows deep down what I need to do about my situation – the message is hammered home by a ‘letting go’ and ‘mastery’ card, indicating that I have much more control in this scenario than I’d like to admit.

‘A shaman shouldn’t tell you anything you don’t already know. It’s about connecting to your own inner guides,’ she explains. It’s chilling to think that we create so much of what we experience through our perceptions and projections. It cements what Durek touched on at his workshop; that a lot of what we experience is linked to our egos: ‘Your ego is talking to you in your head, telling you its stories. These are your belief systems, which can affect how you live your life,’ he says. Shamanism can help un-write some of that.

Next, the shamanic journey. Rebekah takes me through a meditation. I’m told to picture myself in nature, walking into a circle of sacred stones, a spirit animal by my side (a cat – strange, as I’m very much a dog person), and she calls upon the Spirit of Cacao, and then my future self, inviting me to question both for insights.

While I didn’t think I’d experience the ‘spirit guides’, as soon as we start, my mind is a whirring narrative and messages seem to flow. What I was planning to do about the situation was confirmed, and again the idea of ‘letting go’ is a constant thread. I also receive guidance about a friendship I’ve found particularly painful and am told to feel no guilt about stepping away from it. We debrief after about an hour of this, although it flies by, and Rebekah explains her take. 

The cat by my side, she believes, is encouraging me to be a little more cat-like, to care less about others and focus on my own path – explaining that although I like to keep the peace, it isn’t always possible. I can’t keep everybody happy.

Shamanism isn’t scary. I felt safe in both situations and although I’ve tried tarot, reiki and crystal healing (I’m fairly open to these things), it was a method of connecting to my intuition or ‘gut feeling’ that our busy lives condition us to ignore. It can help release trauma and negative beliefs.

Rebekah frequently told me to ‘imagine negative, stale or old thoughts flowing out of the soles of your feet as black sludge’ – and while I didn’t experience tears or hysteria, like those I witnessed at Durek’s workshop, I flashed hot and cold throughout the session, and spent the 10 minutes after the ‘journey’ shivering, despite being fully clothed and wrapped in a blanket.

I’m not sure how or why, but I left with clarity, a better sense of self, feeling calm and confident. In a world where we’re more disconnected and distracted than ever, could it really hurt to pause, reconnect and check in with ourselves? ‘As more people become aware and open to exploring new ways of feeling better, I see the use of shamanic processes growing and becoming more mainstream and acceptable,’ says Rebekah. ‘And I really believe that shamanism can help with the mental health of busy city dwellers, which is why I stay in London.’

I agree. I saw a shaman and maybe, just maybe, you should, too. It might help you work out that issue you’ve been grappling with.

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